Fusebox Festival Review: Water and Tears

A butoh-inspired dance for two bodies existing as one

Courtesy of GO

The image that lingers from Water and Tears is of two dancers, sliding over each other, their bodies curved inward concentrically with heads bent, like a still of dolphins frolicking in the water. Watching their meditative exploration of each other’s weight, balance, and shapes in space, it was challenging to tell which end was up or who was who.

Of course, this was the point of Water and Tears, by Japanese choreographer Kaori Seki, presented April 19 and 20 at the 2018 Fusebox Festival. “I imagine a time,” she writes in the program notes, “when there wasn’t an awareness of the self being divided from the other, or even the identification of the self as ‘one.’”

With the work, Seki, trained in ballet and butoh, gave space to a mesmerizing primordial intimacy. In a sonic atmosphere of crackles, drips, and rumblings, the dancers began on the floor, ever-so-slowly becoming erect, each vertebra floating on its gelid disc and palms plainly facing outward, like drawings from an anatomy book. In the sculptural shapes they made together, carefully and quietly molded, the individuals all but disappeared; if you removed one person from the vignette, the other could not stand on their own. The male dancer, from a headstand, curled over his partner and ended up beyond her lap, and his slightest struggling and their tandem splaying gave way to a birth metaphor. Inversions were important for disrupting our perception of the two as individuals – a passively supported handstand here, a shoulder stand there. We saw their buttocks, rounded beneath their tunic-like rompers, perhaps more than their faces. Arms and legs were not disembodied but had no distinct owner.

The mood was aided greatly by the lighting design (uncredited in the program). For much of the work, the lighting cast stark shadows in the dancers’ musculature, giving the light a similar role to the white makeup of butoh dancers (which a trail of powder on floor also alluded to). But at the end of the work, warmer light flickered in and out – a rise and fall here, another there – and, with the sparse cracklings remaining in the soundscape, rendered a campfire-like hush over the dancers. While at other times I wondered whether the proscenium stage was the best way to experience this work, it was here, at the campfire, that I felt most wholly inside the spell.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Fusebox Festival
Fusebox Festival Review: (Re)current Unrest
Fusebox Festival Review: (Re)current Unrest
This dance grapples with cultural appropriation and racism

Jonelle Seitz, April 24, 2018

Fusebox Festival Review: Magdalena Jarkowiec’s <i>In Here</i>
Fusebox Festival Review: Magdalena Jarkowiec’s In Here
Are we all just doing a dance in a box?

Jonelle Seitz, April 19, 2018

More by Jonelle Seitz
Blue Lapis Light's <i>Belonging, Part One</i>
Blue Lapis Light's Belonging, Part One
The work's dancers, whether on the ground or sailing through the air, were beacons of human hope and empathy

Sept. 28, 2018

Aztlan Dance Company's <i>The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried</i>
Aztlan Dance Company's The Enchilada Western: Texas Deep Fried
In the troupe's latest choreodramas, dancing desperados persisted and partied

Aug. 31, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Fusebox Festival, Kaori Seki

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle